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Compliments and Criticism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

August 15, 2023 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

There once was a girl who dismissed being called pretty and smart and talented. She would smile and nod and go on with her day. Accolades made her embarrassed.

There once was a girl that became quite upset when told the cake was dry, her face wasn’t symmetrical, and that the final project was only worth a C. Judgment made her frantic. 

Compliments and criticism are reflections of each other. A double edged sword meant to define and illustrate the positive and negative attributes of a person, place, or thing. There can be no good without bad. Up without down. Dark without light. 

You can not effectively receive criticism until you are comfortable accepting a compliment, and vice versa. Both forms of feedback elicit an emotional response based on something you have done, created, or simply just are.

This conundrum creates a huge hurdle when developing the strengths and correcting the weaknesses within our team members. Assessment, whether it be praise or correction, must be given in a manner that will allow it to be accepted. Without receptiveness by the recipient you have simply wasted time, made someone uncomfortable, and lost an opportunity to take the conversation to the next level. 

How, as givers of applause and distributors of disparagement, can you ensure your message is actually being absorbed and internalized to the point of making a positive impact? 

  • The Response: Does the person you are addressing typically shut down, blush or blow it off when receiving a compliment? Do they fight back and make excuses when corrected? Or do they accept the critique, learn something from it and promise to do better? Being aware of an expected response will allow you to adjust your delivery making it more likely that it will be impactful. Some like it verbal, some like it written, some like it publicly displayed and some like it in a far away office distant from the eyes and ears of their cohorts. Always make note of the response given as it provides an opportunity to be more effective in future communications. 
  • State the Facts: When approaching someone that typically does not react well to any type of observation, stick to what is apparent, provable, and objective. 
  • Next Week: You tell George his new haircut is great and makes him look ten years younger. He now wears a hat daily. You tell Becky that her report is lacking the required fields. She calls in sick for two days and then is late submitting next week’s data.

    Roger misquoted a sale due to incorrect calculation of taxes. He now has notes with equations and a brand new calculator. Elaine wore a new blue top that everyone exclaimed how it brought out her eyes and exuded confidence. She wears blue everyday now.

The reaction to your assessment is just as important as your statement. How it is addressed sets the stage for all future interactions regarding feedback. 

You can’t control one’s response, only your delivery. Acknowledgment and the ability to adjust your method will lead to a more comfortable and effective feedback loop. 

Maybe next time he tells me I’m pretty I won’t tell him to “shut up”. And maybe the next time he tells me I’m not being nice I won’t get meaner

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